BLAST: Edgerton wins District 8 in 1963
EDGERTON - A week ago, Southwest Minnesota Christian High School, based in Edgerton, won its fifth Class A boys' basketball state championship.
After a runner-up finish in 2012, the Eagles - who won four straight titles from 1999-2002 - capped a remarkable 30-1 season with a well-played 81-73 victory over Maranatha Christian Academy of Brooklyn Park in the first of four championship games at Target Center.
The tournament was the 101st edition of the ever-popular annual event, which has fluxuated in total attendance in recent years. With highly-recruited prospects Reid Travis of Minneapolis DeLaSalle and Tyus Jones of Apple Valley - both juniors - playing in the Class AAA and Class AAAA championship games, respectively, fans packed Target Center for Saturday night's finals.
Even Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was there, attracting lots of attention, after flying in with buddy Flip Saunders - former Gophers' star and Timberwolves' coach - after the Spartans had defeated Memphis in Auburn Hills, Mich. to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
But, much of the crowd at Target Center was neutral - not the same as the frenzied 19.018 fans which packed Williams Arena on the evening of March 26. 1960.
That's when, according to Fulda native and current Minneapolis Star and Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse:
"The place was as loud as it's ever been and probably 18,000 of the fans were rooting for Edgerton."
The small public high school in Edgerton had won its first-ever District 8 title in early March, then steam-rolled two-time defending Region 2 champion Mankato in the regional semifinals (73-44). The Flying Dutchmen improved to a perfect 24-0 and earned a state-tournament trip with a 61-55 victory over perennial tournament power Mountain Lake.
The Lakers had been to 13 previous state tournaments, finishing second three times - including the inaugural 1913 tourney - and had given Region 2 its only state title, winning the championship in 1939.
After defeating Chisholm (63-54) and mighty Richfield (63-60 in overtime), Edgerton became the fans' favorite as the championship game approached.
Austin, after all - like Richfield - was a big school. The Packers had won their third state title in 1958 and lots of basketball junkies still remembered how Austin had crushed the hopes of small-town Minnesota with its 63-31 victory over Lynd in the 1946 championship game.
So, most of the jam-packed crowd cheered for the small-town boys from southeastern Pipestone County and were delighted when Edgerton won by a final score of 72-61.
"Big schools, small schools, we beat 'em all," summed up senior Daryl Stevens, Edgerton's valuable sixth-man, years later when asked about the team's remarkable success.
While both Stevens and sophomore Larry Schoolmeester played important roles off the bench for that Edgerton (27-0) team, which was honored at Target Center three years ago on the 50th anniversary of its achievement, they did not attain the legendary status of the five famous starters:
Senior Dean Verdoes (6-3) and Bob Wiarda (6-1) were the forwards, while juniors Dean Veenhof (6-5 center), Darrell Kreun (5-8 guard) and LeRoy "Slug" Graphenteen (5-8 guard) are well-remembered by avid basketball fans state-wide.
Rich Olson, a first-year teacher, out of Macalester College in St. Paul, was the head coach and John Rath - who later became Luverne's principal - was the assistant.
Success keeps tradition kindling for youngsters
Ken Kielty was Edgerton's head basketball coach for three seasons prior to Olson's arrival and built the program well, as the Dutchmen finished 17-5 in '58-59, including a 27-point win over Slayton and a six-point victory over Luverne.
A one-point loss (65-64) to Jasper - on a last-second shot by Jim Cragoe - ended Edgerton's fine '59 season in the District 8 finals.
After the 1960 state championship season, the Dutchmen returned three starters and repeated as Tri-County Conference, District 8 and Region 2 champions in 1961.
The Dutchmen lost two games during the regular season - one to Minneapolis Roosevelt in a Gophers' prelimary game at Williams Arena in December and the second to Luverne on the Cardinals' court in the last game of the regular season.
Edgerton avenged that loss, however, with a victory over Luverne in the District 8 title game.
After defeating Wells and Jackson in the Region 2 tournament, played in Worthington, the Dutchmen returned to the state tournament.
Bemidji, whose assistant coach Don Basche later coached Worthington for three decades, defeated Edgerton (76-67) in the opening round, denying Olson's squad of a repeat state title.
The Dutchmen defeated Royalton (66-58) in the consolation round, but lost to Mahtomedi (51-49) in the fifth-place game, finishing the season with a 23-4 record.
Kreun, Graphenteen (now 5-10), Veenhof, senior Jim Roos (6-2) and junior Bob Dykstra (6-4) gave Olson a slightly bigger starting line-up in '60-61.
Veenhof (1,887) and Kreun (1,268) both finished with well over 1,000 points as three-year varsity starters for Edgerton.
With four starters gone, Olson faced a rebuilding season in '61-62.
Dykstra was the only returning starter, but fellow seniors Darwin (D.J) Fey (5-11) and Larry Schoolmeester (6-1), along with junior Bernie Stoel (6-3) and sophomore Vernon Schoolmeester (5-10) teamed together to win a third straight conference title, as Edgerton finished 13-1 in Tri-County games, having a 37-game league winning streak snapped by Magnolia (67-52) late in the season.
The Dutchmen, who were 11-0 before a non-conference loss to Slayton, were also later defeated in non-league games by Jasper and Luverne during the regular season.
A close loss (47-42) to eventual champion Pipestone in the District 8 quarterfinals, ended Edgerton's '61-62 season with a 14-5 overall record.
Vernon Schoolmeester, a growing sophomore, finished the campaign as the Dutchmen's leading scorer with 313 points and Stoel displayed significant improvement over the course of the season.
Those two starters returned for Edgerton in '62-63.
Edgerton win fourth straight conference crown, and third District 8 championship
Starting with a season-opening home-court victory over league foe Adrian (59-46) on Nov. 30 and ending with a 81-68 triumph over district rival Luverne (at Luverne) 12 weeks later, on Feb. 22, Edgerton outscored 18 opponents by a spread of 484 points (nearly 27 points per game) and entered the District 8 tournament as one of only three undefeated teams in the state.
"We had a good bunch of kids again that season," recalled Olson, who spends his winters in Texas with his wife Marlys. "That's the secret, having good kids and we really had them at Edgerton."
Stoel (6-3) was the Flying Dutchmen's senior center and was joined in the front line by senior Doug Schelhaas (6-1) and junior Jake Kooiman (5-10), while Vern Schoolmeester (now a junior) and senior Bob Westbenberg gave Edgerton a pair of sharp-shooting six-foot guards.
"We were not very tall, but - other than Bernie - all the starters were nearly the same height and that made us pretty interchangeable on defense when we switched on screens across," remembered Olson, who compiled an incredible win-loss record of 85-10 (.895) in four years at Edgerton. "Jake was the shortest of the starters, but man was he tough. He could jump and was a great rebounder for his size."
With Stoel and Schoolmeester doing the bulk of the scoring, the Dutchmen cruised through December with wins over Ellsworth (85-37), Hills (72-52), Chandler (80-60) and Magnolia (57-44), taking a perfect 5-0 record into the break.
Stoel (24, 19, 19, 12, 17) scored in double figures in all five games, while Schoolmeester netted 29 points in the homecourt win over Chandler. Westenberg and Kooiman had each scored in double figures twice, with high-games of 15.
Both Schelhaas and junior Curt Pool scored a dozen points in the Chandler game and junior Eugene Boysen - who had a 29-inch vertical leap - scored 10 points in the game at Ellsworth.
After five games, seven players had already produced double figures at least once.
"We had great scoring balance," recalled Vernon Schoolmeester, who was a self-proclaimed "gym rat" and tallied 1,211 points as a varsity player for Edgerton before playing college basketball at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. "Bernie usually led us, but all of us were good shots and could score."
Schoolmeester, who went by the nickname "Tonto," had exceptional range - much like his cousin Kreun displayed two years earlier - and was able to knock down long shots from all angles.
"I was nervous when Vern would shoot from so far away from the basket," recalled his mother Wilamene, who still lives in Edgerton and rarely missed any home games five decades ago. "But, he made most of them and I sure enjoyed watching him and his friends play.
"Vern said that he was never nervous about taking those shots. He just wanted to help his team win and he practiced so much to get better. After supper, he went back to the gym and practiced some more. I guess all that practice helped him make those shots."
Practicing shooting and playing pickup basketball games were two things that Edgerton's players did - often.
"We spent our Saturday night's at the gym," recalled Kooiman, who was praised by Schoolmeester for his athleticism and defensive ability. "We started doing that when we were eighth-graders and Kreun and those guys (the '60 state champions) were always up there shooting.
"We played basketball all the time and became good ball-handlers and shooters. We developed our fundamentals by playing every chance we could."
As the calendar turned to 1963, the Dutchmen continued their season with a trio of high-scoring homecourt wins over Beaver Creek (77-38), Jasper (89-45) and Ellsworth (95-59) before escaping with a 62-60 overtime win at Beaver Creek on January 22.
The Dutchmen trailed by five points (31-26) at halftime, but rallied and improved to 9-0 when Schoolmeester's long shot provided the winning points in overtime.
"Tonto" finished with 20 points for EHS, but Russell Sandstede tallied a game-high 21 to lead the Beavers.
In the Ellsworth game, Stoel (27), Schoolmeester (24), Westenberg (15) and Kooiman (10) each netted double figures.
Schoolmeester (30), Westenberg (17) and Stoel (10) led Edgerton to an 81-47 win over Lake Wilson (there) and the Dutchmen finished strong to post a 63-53 win over large-school Slayton on the Wildcats' court (Jan. 29) to become 11-0.
Stoel had a huge night (36 points) for the Dutchmen, who trailed by seven points (41-34) midway through the third quarter, while Schoolmeester scored a dozen points and dished off 11 assists.
"We played well the last 10 minutes of that game, which was a big win for us," said Schoolmeester, who also remembers those Saturday night pickup games in the gym. "We all had such a passion for basketball, which we learned from watching and playing with the older guys on those state tournament teams.
"Some times, we'd have so many guys at the gym that you would have to wait your turn and play ping pong on the stage until a spot opened up on the court."
That kind of practice and dedication paid dividends for the Dutchmen as the '63 season moved into February.
Playing at home, Olson's team doubled the score on Magnolia (96-48) as Stoel - who had been honored as a WCCO Radio "Prep Parade Team of the Week" selection after his 36-point performance against Slayton - netted 31 points and Schoolmeester (15), Westenberg (11) and Schelhaas (11) also scored in double digits.
Stoel continued his scoring rampage at Chandler four nights later (Feb. 5) when he poured in 40 points - giving him 107 in three games - and leading a 76-61 comeback victory over the Eagles.
Chandler held a 40-31 lead early in the third period, but by the quarter's end, Edgerton was up by eight, 51-43.
Schoolmeester scored 22 points in the game, while Roger Smith and Larry Van Dyke netted 18 and 16 points, respectively, for Chandler.
As Worthington's Bill Brower rolled a 740 series to top a field of 120 bowlers to claim the men's singles' title at Oxford Bowl, Edgerton became the area's only undefeated team when fourth-ranked Windom (among all public schools in Minnesota) was upset by Luverne (55-48) at Luverne Feb. 8.
That same night, the Dutchmen defeated Hills at home, 80-70, as Westenberg scored a season-high 24 points to lead Edgerton in scoring. Schoolmeester (23), Stoel (14) and Schelhaas (10) also had double figures, while Terry Arends scored a game-high 33 points to lead the Bluejays.
Schoolmeester (27) and Stoel (24) each scored well in Edgerton's 88-40 win over Lake Wilson on the Dutchmen's last home game of the season on Feb. 15.
Traveling to Jasper the next night, EHS improved to 16-0 with a 90-45 win over ther Quartz-siters as Stoel (21), Schoolmeester (18), Westenberg (12) and Schelhaas (11) each scored double figures.
"Jake wasn't always a big scorer," recalled Schoolmeester. "But he often guarded me in practice and his tough defense made me better. I was never intimidated by anyone else after going against Jake in pickup games or practices."
A wide receiver in the fall, Kooiman was quarterback Schoolmeester's favorite target on the football field and the two often connected on a long touchdown pass on the first play of the game.
"Vern could throw it a long ways and I had enough speed to get past the defense," recalled Kooiman, who played football and basketball at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.
Kooiman scored 14 points in Edgerton's 17th victory of the '62-63 season - an 82-58 win at Adrian, in which the game had to be moved to St. Adrian's gym after after a leaky roof caused water to spill on the Dragons' court.
Stoel (18), Schoolmeester (17) and Westenberg (12) joined Kooiman in an exceptionally well-balanced scoring night for the Dutchmen.
Big game at Luverne to end regular season is sold out
As had been the case for several years, the season-ending game at Luverne was a sell-out weeks in advance.
For the first time since 1960, Edgerton won and ended a perfect regular season with an 18-0 record - duplicating what the state champs had done three years earlier.
"It was always a great game with Luverne," recalled Kooiman. "It was a nice rivalry and I loved Luverne's floor - it had good springs."
Leading all the way (25-18, 49-37 and 69-53 at the quarter breaks), the Flying Dutchmen left town with an 81-68 win.
Schoolmeester (29), Stoel (17) and Kooiman (13) topped Edgerton's scorers, while Loren Wenzel, Bill Toms and Ron Friestad netted 20, 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Cardinals, who had three players - Wenzel, Greg Thone and Bob Frahm - foul out.
Schelhaas fouled out for the Dutchmen and three others had four as a total of 52 fouls were called in the contest.
Edgerton made 31-of-47 free throws to help maintain its game-long lead.
Through the 18 games of the regular season, the Dutchmen scored a total of 1,413 points (78.5 ppg), while allowing 929 (51.6 ppg). Edgerton scored 90 or more points three times and had 80 or more in 11 games, including the last five.
"We really could score," recalled Olson. "We had good shooters and ran the floor well."
Dutchmen also win rematch two weeks later
Details of Edgerton's first two 1963 tournament games have been highlighted in the last two "Blasts-From-the-Pasts" - the 72-38 quarterfinal win over Magnolia (March 12 issue) and the 65-48 semifinal victory over Slayton (March 20).
So, we'll skip ahead to Friday, March 8 and the district championship - for the second time in three years - between Luverne and Edgerton.
Playing at Worthington, the Cardinals took complete control early.
After scoring the game's first eight points, Luverne continued to dominate, taking a 21-8 lead early in the second quarter - aided by a technical foul called on Olson at the first quarter's end.
"Olson was a fiery coach," emphasized Schoolmeester. "He was a good organizer and knew how to run practice and teach us the fundamentals. He had that special quality of getting us to understand our roles and was able to mold our individual talents, blending us into a team."
Edgerton's defense stiffened and both Westenberg and "Tonto" hit key perimeter shots. By halftime, Luverne's lead was sliced to one, 24-23.
After Stoel tied the game with a free throw at the beginning of the third quarter, he connected on a 20-footer which gave Edgerton a 26-24 edge and the Dutchmen continued to lead, eventually pulling away for a 58-49 win - the school's third district championship in four years.
"Beating Luverne twice was special," summed up Olson. "They were always good. The next year, with many of the same players, they won the state."
Stoel (21), Schoolmeester (15) and Westenberg (10) each netted double figures for EHS in the title game, while Boysen played well off the bench and contributed six points, along with several key rebounds.
St. James ends state-tournament dream in Region 2 semifinals at Worthington
Unfortunately, Edgerton's 1963 "dream season" came to a crashing end on the evening of Tuesday, March 12 in the Region 2 semifinals at Worthington.
District 6 champion St. James, led by the 21-point performance of 5-11 senior forward Carl St. John - along with the rebounding and inside defensive presence of 6-6 senior Brad Offerdahl (10 points) - never let the Dutchmen get ahead.
The Saints led at each quarter break (21-12, 29-26 and 39-31) and pulled away to a 59-48 win, ending Edgerton's season at 21-1.
Schoolmeester, who finished with 27 points, hit a bucket early in the third quarter, which brought Edgerton to within two points (31-29), but that was as close as the Dutchmen came.
"Tonto was our only guy who was hitting his shots that night," said Kooiman, who remembers sitting on the bench for several minutes after not blocking out on the boards like he usually did. "We picked the wrong night to go flat. It was a very disappointing end to what had been a great season."
Schoolmeester, who - along with Jackson's Kent Borchard - made "Prep Parade's Team of the Year," summed it up this way:
"St. James played good defense, but no better than Luverne did. We were not overwhelmed by St. James. It just didn't work out for us that game.
"We were able to play in some tremendous atmospheres and we were taught - by Coach Olson and assistant coach Bob Nangle, who was our head football coach and a great guy - to respect all opponents, but fear none."
Through a memorable high school basketball season 50 years ago, the Edgerton Flying Dutchmen did what their coaches taught them - and the tradition continued, even without Olson (who left for a head coaching job at Virginia, Minn.), as Schoolmeester and Kooiman -- now seniors -- along with junior Curt Vander Stoep led EHS to a 17-3 season in '63-64 under new head coach Arlin Patrick.